The mental health of Farsi-Dari speaking asylum-seeking children and parents facing insecure residency in Australia

Elsevier, The Lancet Regional Health - Western Pacific, Volume 27, October 2022
Rostami R., Wells R., Solaimani J., Berle D., Hadzi-Pavlovic D., Silove D. et al.

Background: This research examined the mental health of a cohort of asylum-seeking children, adolescents and their primary caregiver affected by insecure residency while living in the community, compared to refugees and immigrants. Methods: The project investigated the prevalence of psychosocial problems among Iranian and Afghani asylum seeker, refugee and immigrant children and adolescents, and their caregivers who arrived in Australia from 2010. In total, n=196 children and adolescents aged 5–18 years, and their primary caregiver were asked about family visa status, country of origin, level of education, parent symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (Harvard Trauma Questionnaire) and child wellbeing (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire). An additional n=362 Farsi and Dari speaking children, recruited through the Building a New Life in Australia (BNLA) study, a national comparison sample of families with permanent refugee visas, were included. Findings: Asylum seeker children and adolescents displayed significantly more psychosocial problems compared to those with full refugee protection and immigrant background within the current sample and when benchmarked against a national sample of Farsi-Dari speaking refugee children. Higher parental posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms was associated with poorer child and adolescent psychosocial functioning. This effect was more marked in families with insecure residency. Interpretation: Insecure visa status is associated with higher rates of children's mental health problems and a stronger association with parental PTSD symptoms compared to children with secure residency. This raises important questions about Australia's restrictive immigration policies. Funding: This project was supported by an Australian Rotary Health Research Fund / Mental Health of Young Australians Research Grant and by the Australian Research Council (DP160104378).